High Court Ruling Extends Toxic Exposure Liability

The New Jersey State Supreme Court has unanimously decided that liability for exposure to toxic substances in the workplace may extend beyond an affected employee’s spouse. According to NJ Spotlight, the decision expands the scope of a 10-year-old ruling involving the case of a Pennsylvania husband and his wife who was sickened from exposure to toxic substances.

In the original case, the wife of a ceramic worker was diagnosed with chronic beryllium disease, an incurable condition affecting lung tissue, due to second-hand exposure to asbestos and beryllium from her husband’s clothing. The lawsuit, which was initially filed in the Pennsylvania state court but moved to federal jurisdiction, accused the man’s employer of product liability based on the theory of take-home toxic-tort liability.

However, because the man’s job with the ceramics company predated his marriage to his wife, and because neither New Jersey or Pennsylvania courts recognized the duty of an employer to protect someone who was not a worker’s spouse, the company’s motion to dismiss the case was granted. The plaintiffs later appealed this decision to the Third Circuit, which found that the company could be held liable for her injuries on the grounds that it should have been foreseeable that the woman would be handling and laundering the worker’s clothes.

In the current case, the court has found that liability may extend beyond the spouse of a worker injured by a toxic substance in proper circumstances. Factors that may be considered include:

  • The relationship between the defendant and the injured person
  • The opportunity for exposure to the dangerous substance
  • The employer’s knowledge of the risks inherent in exposure

The court specified, however, that there is no hard-and-fast rule in take-home toxic-tort cases as to who is included and excluded.

If you or a family member has been injured by a toxic substance related to your workplace, please contact a Philadelphia toxic tort attorney at Golomb LegalWe are prepared to fight tenaciously on your behalf to help bring you the compensation you deserve. Call our office at (215) 278-4449 to schedule a consultation, or fill out a brief online form and we will be in touch with you promptly.